HUNDREDS of people attending a major convention in the region this weekend will be told that scientists are closing in on the links between a lack of vitamin D and multiple sclerosis.

Professor George Ebers, head of clinical neurology at Oxford University is due to speak at the MS Society's annual convention, MS Life, at The Sage at Gateshead today.

He is one of a number of top scientists who will be talking about different aspects of MS, a degenerative neurological disease which affects thousands of Britons.

Experts already know that people who live in sunnier climates have lower rates of MS than those who live in areas that have less sunshine, probably because of increased vitamin D exposure via the skin.

Recently Prof Ebers was part of a research team which found evidence of a direct link between vitamin D and a gene which alters the risk of developing MS.

Prof Ebers will tell of his recent research which compared vitamin D levels in sets of identical twins and non-identical twins.

He found that identical twins had exactly the same levels of vitamin D in their bodies, suggesting that this was determined genetically rather than through environmental exposure.

Experts are now coming round to recommending taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and the early years of life as a way of reducing the chance of developing MS.

Prof Ebers told The Northern Echo: "That is probably true but I hesitate to make a blanket recommendation.

"This is probably something between people and their doctors."

Earlier this year Prof Eber and his colleagues came to the conclusion that in people with a genetic variant associated with MS a shortage of vitamin D could trigger the condition.